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    Encouraging Independent Reading Remotely in the COVID-19 Era

    By Marie Havran
     | Aug 28, 2020
    Girl reading

    To escape the fear of an uncertain start to the school year, I find myself reading more than ever before. I’ve always enjoyed reading, but in this season of social distancing and remote learning, it feels different. Lately, I find myself thinking of my students and considering how I can nurture their independent reading within my virtual classroom. Even with limited access, I do believe it’s not only possible but also necessary for my students to continue turning toward reading in challenging times or to fall in love with it for the first time. My hope is that, as readers, we can continue to grow and have our independent reading take on a new significance. Here are some suggestions of how you can encourage independent reading.

    Host a book show-and-tell

    Go “old school” and host a reading show-and-tell. Invite students to share their favorite book or what they’re currently reading. This is also a great way to introduce new authors and genres.

    Invite guest readers

    Although there are many online read-aloud resources available, students might be more interested to see familiar faces or be read to by someone with an authentic connection to the class. You can invite other educators, local libraries, or students’ family members and caregivers to read aloud.

    Don’t be afraid to ask students who they would like to invite to a virtual read-aloud. It’s the perfect way to have your students experience new reading styles and continue to build school community.

    Match reading buddies

    Get to know your students’ reading interests by having them complete a reading interest survey. This will not only provide you with a wealth of information but also reveal which students have similar reading interests so that you can pair them. Encourage reading buddies to check in on each other to offer motivation and book recommendations.

    Establish online book clubs

    Reading is a social act. Join students together within an online book club using Zoom video breakout rooms. As the meeting host, you can start with the whole class and then place students into sub-meetings for discussions. You will be able to switch between these sub-meetings at any time.

    Lead by example

    Sharing your reading life is important, and you can do that easily with your students by using the Chrome extension Currently Reading for Gmail. Select the books you are currently reading from their database, and the titles will appear automatically in your email signature for your email recipients to see.

    Promote audiobooks

    One way to lure students into reading is through audiobooks. Audiobooks provide support for readers of all ages and allow students to hear fluent reading. Promote sites that offer free audiobooks, such as the following:

    Encourage book talks

    There are limitless possibilities for students to share their reading digitally, but Flipgrid and Padlet are two of my favorites. Allow students to choose which platform they feel comfortable using and have them share their reading and react to posts from their classmates.

    Online learning can be stressful for everyone, but supporting independent reading remotely shouldn’t be. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but providing motivation and encouragement for reading is a good start.

    Marie Havran is an elementary literacy specialist in Greenville, SC, and an adjunct professor at Furman University. Follow her on Twitter: @MarieHavran.

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    • ~18 years old (Grade 12)
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    Reading On: Free Resources for Virtual Learning

    Morgan Ratner
     | May 15, 2020

    Smiling girl at table in front of laptopWith schools looking at long-term closures because of coronavirus (COVID-19), ensuring that students can make the most of their studies at home is more important than ever.

    The literacy and learning communities are well-equipped to help make online learning easier. In addition to ILA’s resources (including our tips for connecting with readers online and using web tools to communicate), an outpouring of support across industries has resulted in free assets educators and families and caregivers can use to engage their readers remotely.

    Below, you’ll find a handful of the many offerings at your disposal during this uncertain time. We might be forced apart, but these resources ensure that we can all continue to learn together.

    Access to Books and Literacy Instruction

    • Wondering which books your students or children might enjoy? Check our Choices reading lists to find their next read (or 10). Each year, thousands of children, teens, and educators around the United States select their favorite recently published books. Use these lists to help your readers connect with comforting stories and find their next page-turner.
    • With a free ReadWorks account, educators and parents can find web series, video tutorials, and support groups to help with reading comprehension.
    • When physical books are unavailable, audiobooks save the day. For as long as schools are closed, Audible will open up its digital library, allowing children to stream a wide collection of stories across a number of languages.
    • Teachers and homeschool educators can get a free one-year subscription to Vooks, a library of read-aloud animated storybooks.
    • Keep kids reading with Epic!, a digital library for kids 12 and under. Families can receive 30 days of free access while educators can join the platform free through June 30.
    • Until the end of June, Amazon Kindle Unlimited is offering free access to more than one million titles, for all ages and across all genres.
    • Sync provides free audiobooks to readers 13 and older, with new titles featured weekly for a one-week borrow through the summer.

    Community Resources and Library Programs

    • Who said you need to travel the globe to see great art? Google Arts & Culture has teamed up with over 2,500 museums to bring the masterpieces of artists like Van Gogh and Monet right to your living room. Talk about a virtual field trip!
    • If you’re looking to help your child or students understand the coronavirus pandemic, look to News-O-Matic, a daily virtual newspaper designed for kids. Young readers can experience the world while building media literacy skills and broadening their horizons. Teachers can receive free access until June 30.
    • Throughout the United States, now-closed libraries, such as the New York Public Library and DC Public Library, are offering library card access through digital apps and websites. Check your local library website to see what offers are available.

    Open Access Publisher Content

    • Macmillan’s trade division is offering free online resources, including downloadable activity kits, audio content, and book-specific teaching guides, while the education arm is sharing webinars and opening up their digital tools.
    • Scholastic’s Learn at Home program includes grade-appropriate projects and events, like virtual book fests, to keep children curious and engaged.
    • Harper at Home from HarperCollins is offering daily read-alouds, author appearances, and book clubs for the whole family to enjoy.

    Morgan Ratner is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, NY.

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    Earth Day 2020 Resource Roundup

    By ILA Staff
     | Apr 22, 2020

    Young Child With SunflowerToday, April 22, marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, a celebration of our planet and a day to reflect upon the choices we make and how they affect the world around us.

    Children often have an innate curiosity for the natural world and a drive toward ecological activism. During this time of sheltering in place and stay-at-home orders, help foster students’ curiosity and motivate them with inquiry-based activities and project-based learning. We’ve rounded up several resources you can share with families and caregivers to inspire green activities and environment-friendly activism today and every day.

    Follow @ILAToday and tell us how you are celebrating #EarthDay with your students and family.

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    Celebrating World Read Aloud Day

    ILA STAFF
     | Feb 04, 2020

    World Read Aloud Day is Wednesday, February 5! To celebrate the occasion, Pam Allyn, the founding director of LitWorld, shares some ways to create a home or classroom environment for more impactful read-alouds:

    Designate a special place and time for reading aloud: Whether you are creating an elaborate fort together or something simpler, like a reading “nook,” building a safe space allows kids to relax and open up for conversation and to engage around the books you are reading together.

    Keep track of books that inspire the richest conversations: Make a file on your device to save favorite read-aloud titles. Find space in your classroom to post children’s reviews and comments after reading. Document the journey together, valuing the titles that invite new worlds and/or reflect your deepest selves.

    Solicit your students for story recommendations and books they want to read (and read again) to share ownership of the read aloud experience: Scholastic, LitWorld’s extraordinary sponsor in World Read Aloud Day, published the Kids and Family Reading Report, which shows that children are most likely to finish (and enjoy) books they choose themselves.

    Make read-aloud a performance: Invite students from other classrooms, teachers, librarians, staff, parents, grandparents, and members of the local community. Stage a play, read aloud from children’s own narratives, or host a read-aloud-athon on World Read Aloud Day to bring the importance of reading aloud to the fore.

    Use read-aloud as a tool for social justice and equity: By discussing a shared text, we can honor and hear quieter voices in our classrooms and at home. Make sure to stop for “turn and talks” during the read-aloud and to select books that reflect a wide range of cultures, languages, and perspectives.

    In this way, multiple voices and stories wash over your community like a cleansing, celebratory rain, signifying the start of a new era and a time when all children’s voices matter and will be heard.

    For more resources, visit litworld.org/wrad. Remember to use the hashtag #WorldReadAloudDay on Twitter to share your stories!

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    Research-Based Literacy Instruction Strategies

    ILA STAFF
     | Nov 05, 2019

    Every time students pick up a new word or understand the deeper meaning behind a story, their passion for reading grows and prepares them for a future of rich literacy education. The end goal for educators is to instill passion in their students to keep reaching for books. However, getting students to that point can be difficult. No one learner is exactly like another, and every student comes with personal learning preferences and challenges, which pose a major hurdle when it comes to collective classroom learning. 

    Research-based instruction strategies can help educators reach all of their students regardless of the differences among them. Not only do these strategies offer proven evidence for what does and doesn’t work, but they also propose ideas and tactics that educators may have never even thought of implementing in their classroom.  

    We’ve compiled a list of research-based methods for maximizing literacy instruction. Check out the links below for ways to improve the reading experience of our young students:

    Of course, just like every student, every classroom is also different. A concept that works well in one (or many) may be ineffective in another. The most important part is that educators never stop trying until they find the most effective strategies to complement their unique group of students.

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